A Tale of Two CPACs

| March 2, 2009 | 12 Replies

Rick Moran has some harsh words for conservatism.

But conservatism has gone off the rails, becoming in some respects a parody of itself. A philosophy that is all about honoring and conserving tradition while allowing for change that buttresses and supports important aspects of the past, has been hijacked by ideologues who brook no deviation from a dogma that limits rather than expands human freedom. Conservatism has become loud, obnoxious, closed-minded, and puerile, while its classical tradition of tolerance and hard-headed rationalism has been abandoned in favor of emotional jags and a vicious parochialism that eschews debate for “litmus tests” on ideological purity.

Now I like Rick quite a bit. Meeting him at CPAC after years of reading his work was a great delight for me. He’s given me good advice about my own writing and how to make my blog better. He’s a hard-working guy who takes his work seriously. But he’s wrong to say that conservatism has changed and he’s badly misinformed about what America really believes. Something put a burr under his saddle and it’s driven him to say some very mean, and very untrue, things about his ideological brethren based on a very different vision of CPAC than the one I saw.

The conservatism I saw at CPAC was not measurably different than it was when William F. Buckley planted his feet athwart history and shouted “stop”. The difference between then and now are the people doing the shouting. Instead of a college student from Yale, I saw students and housewives, talk show hosts and plumbers — and yeah, even bloggers — who have decided that the “go along to get along” conservatism of folks like David Frum, David Brooks, and Kathleen Parkers has failed them miserably. The masses are storming the towers of the elites and that is scaring the bejeezus out of them.

Here’s the thing. It wasn’t conservatives who expelled Parker or Frum. They expelled themselves. They’re the ones who turned a flamethrower on the bridges they crossed and made damned sure that they looked like the victims the whole time. No one forced these people to treat the millions of everyday conservatives like they were ignorant rubes whose only job was to do what their intellectual betters told them to do. They picked that fight themselves over a very successful, personable, lovely, decent family woman named Sarah Palin and it’s hardly “loud, obnoxious, closed-minded, and puerile” of us fight back.

We listened to those folks in the primaries and it got us John McCain. How’d that work out for the conservative movement?

The nut of Moran’s analysis is that all this mule-headed stubbornness of the unwashed masses is going to lead to permanent defeat a the ballot box.

There is plenty of frustration with the president’s spending and bailouts but this has yet to translate into opposition. The latest polls show a wide majority of citizens backing the president’s gamble that spending trillions of dollars will not hasten or cause a collapse but actually bring the economy back to life. That hardly seems like a national “awakening” no matter how you spin it.

Oh, really? What else would he call the spontaneous, grassroots protests in at least a dozen major cities but opposition? And his “wide majority” doesn’t seem to be all that wide either. Half of Americans believe the Stimulus Bill will make our economy worse and that the the money won’t be wisely-spent.

Americans seem to be saying “no” quite a lot right now only Rick isn’t listening. He’s too busy fulminating about imaginary pogroms and perpetuating the left-wing fiction of conservatives as manifestly intolerant.

The movement is seen as intolerant of gays, immigrants, and other non-white, non-middle class citizens — a perception that the Republican Party does little to counter and makes attacking conservatism on these issues extremely easy.

Moran’s parroting of those same untrue talking points only cement the incorrect perception. Conservatives are not intolerant of gays. They, like the majority of Americans in 30 states, simply do not believe that we should redefine marriage. They are not intolerant of immigrants. They believe, as does a wide majority of Americans, that we should enforce the laws we have against illegal immigration and ensure that our national borders are defended. They are not intolerant, but it is easy, and lazy, to say they are. Rick’s a smarter man than that. Perhaps he was distracted by all the ruckus we’re making over such intolerant things as limited government, personal freedom, and economic opportunity. I know we weren’t using big words and quoting the Great Masters of conservatism, but don’t mistake bluntness for ignorance or intolerance.

Over three days, I saw quite a different conservatism on display at CPAC than did Rick Moran. I saw a bunch of energized people who have a handful of traditional, successful, rock-solid principles that they are going to hold no matter how many people glower at them. I saw folks who are sick and tired of not being heard and who are starving for someone to rally behind. I think Rick is a good guy, but he has on a huge pair of blinders that he really needs to lose. Come on, Rick. Hop on the bandwagon with the rest of us common rabble. Yeah, we’re loud and uncouth and we scratch in awkward places, but it’s not nearly as bad up here as you think. You may even find out that you have a valued spot among us.

UPDATE: Linked by Conservative Grapevine. Thanks, John!

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